BY LEON DE WINTER*
It has been confirmed that last year President Hussein Obama talked to president Hassan Rohani—in Iran, jokes about their names have arisen as flowers in the spring. Was that phone call the beginning of the Iranian spring? Many commentators said it did. Some time ago Christiane Amanpour had an interview with president Rohani and she, and the entire CNN staff, heard him saying words that other people did not hear, like the complicated word ‚Holocaust’. According to her, president Rohani is a moderate and a reformer. If that is the case, the Islamic Republic of Iran is heading towards a new phase in its existence. For these commentators, Tehran’s support for Syria’s President Assad is just… well, just a thing.
Hussein and Hassan talked with each other, and we may assume that they did not talk about the seasons but about how to proceed with talking. Both presidents are brilliant talkers about talking, so we may rejoice in looking forward to many talks about talking.
But both Hussein and Hassan have problems at home. For Hussein the problem is: now that they have talked, he owns the issue of talking with Iran. As long as there were only raving madmen as Hassan’s predecessor talking nonsense, it was easy to avoid direct responsibility for the issue of Iran’s nuclear project. There were no official talks, and some threats about distant actions were enough to calm public opinion. That period of freedom is gone.
And Hassan has a similar problem: he pretends to be a moderate, and Western media and politicians want him to be a moderate, so now he has to talk as a moderate and deliver moderate talks, which could enrage the conservatives in the Tehran establishment who cannot stand moderate talking. Hassan has to cover the nuclear project of the conservatives while talking moderately to Hussein. Can he pull this off? Imagine how the American Congress has to react when it finds out that the talks were just, well, talks for the sake of talking. They are both stuck in their talks, these talkers.
Israel’s premier does not buy the idea that president Hassan is a moderate man. For good reasons. But the best thing he can do is: join them and don’t behave as a party spoiler. Hussein and Hassan have a talking party, so join them even if they haven’t invited you. Don’t suggest that Hassan is just a wolf with a smile. Don’t suggest that Hussein is a dangerous fool. No. Israel’s premier should say that he is excited that these two important talkers are talking and that he dies to join them talking. Instead of being a party spoiler he should be a party crasher.
He should make another statement, a historical statement: He should invite Hassan to come to Jerusalem and visit the Knesset and Yad Vashem. Hassan is a moderate man, they say, and he has acknowledged the Holocaust, they say, so he will be interested in being informed by great historians about the scope of Europe’s mass murder of the Jews. And he is of course happy, as a moderate and peaceful man, to explain to the Knesset the plight of the Palestinians.
Israel’s premier should not make the mistake of trying to explain to the free world that Hussein and Hassan are just talkers. The free world is not interested in facts. No. The premier should also express the hope that Hussein and Hassan will talk their way into some kind of resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem.
Hussein claims that Hassan is a moderate man. That’s the reason why he took his phone call. What is the best thing to do with talkers like these? Take them for what they pretend to be. And talk to them as if they really are moderate talkers talking about peace, love and understanding.
Invite president Rohani. Let him come to Jerusalem—and if that is one step too far, invite him to a Tel Aviv beach talking session. Give Hassan, at an Israeli location of his choice, the chance to show he is a moderate and reform-minded man. Because president Rohani is one, isn’t he?
* Leon de Winter, 59, prominent and popular Dutch writer and coumnist, author of best-selling novels like “The Right of Return”, lives in Holland and Los Angeles.